Ministry's Dark Side

Ministry - Dark Side Of The Spoon
(Warner Brothers Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

It's not always easy being the bad guy. But that's never seemed to bother Chicago-based industrial-metal band Ministry, who since the release of their early eighties record With Sympathy, a collection of glib, synth-disco pop tunes, have made it a point to do whatever it takes to sound like Beelzebub's only son.
Led by Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker, Ministry's hard-core sound has influenced a legion of followers that have spawned such poster children for the industrial revolution as Nine Inch Nails and Prodigy. Not including their first album, which Jourgensen claims was an 'abortion' and that he was forced into recording it by his record company, they've released a number of albums that would make fitting soundtracks to the end of the world, complete with jackhammer percussions, breakneck rhythms, tortured vocals and sordid subject matters that deal with drugs and the occult.
Starting with the highly textured sonic soundscapes which graced The Land Of Rape And Honey to the teeth-gnashing scare-metal of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste to the apocalyptic vision of Psalm 69, it seemed for quite awhile they may have been onto something with this lethal mixture. That is until it turned sour on them on their last album Filth Pig , which wandered aimlessly in territory they'd already explored, not to mention the embarrassingly, atrocious version of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay".
Poised in what seems like a make or break situation, Ministry has released their seventh full-length album entitled Dark Side Of The Spoon , which unfortunately leans toward the latter.
Musically, Dark Side finds them revisiting their own brand of chaotic, menacing music only this time around it's a lot less industrial and a lot more plodding metal, without the explosives.
Never one to have a distinct voice, Jourgensen has in the past used his voice as more of a distorted instrument in the mix through the use of state of the art electronics. Now on Dark Side Of The Spoon , as on Filth Pig, he actually sings, although still cloaked in synth-effects. On the rapid fire rhythm of "Supermanic Soul" he grunts out the lyrics sounding like Jim Henson's Cookie Monster sucking helium, while he drones with a faux-English accent on the laboring "Whip and Chain" and "Kaif", which would have worked better if they'd slipped some of the spiked punch of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste in it.
This album is not without it's moments however. "Eureka Pile" has a demented guitar-riff that wickedly smiles down over a churning rhythm spiced with East-Indian musings. "Step", gets some self-help from a sonic stomp and taunting, over-the-top guitar, as it checks itself into the Betty Ford Clinic. A twisted banjo and confused, advent-garde saxophone weave and shuffle around one another over a chest-thumping bassline on "Nursing Home", and on the slippery instrumental "10/10" the oddly placed, but welcome, sax again waxes over a Black Sabbath-on-lithium riff.
No, it's not always easy being the bad guy, but it must've helped when they were making albums stronger than this.

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